So busy I forgot to play Dragon Age II

This past weekend has been quite good. I haven’t been this busy over a weekend since Solstice.

Paul Movie PosterThursday night I went to see Paul with Ronya. The movie is fun. It’s not gut busting fun, and not quite as dead on in it’s timing like Sean of the Dead or Hot Fuzz were, but it is fun. I think the major problem they had with this film was they were set in the US, and while they did pull the occasional confused-British-foreigners routine most of it was ignored. I think they could have played with the foreign aspect a lot more, especially as Paul was less alien to US culture than the two human characters were.

Still, there were some great lines, and most of the best ones had nothing to do with geek references.

Parts of the movie deserve to be seen on the big screen but I’m not sure it’s enough to justify the full theater price. It is definitely worth the rental, though, and completists will want to own it just to maintain their Simon Pegg collection. I know I’ll be picking it up on DVD once it comes out.

By the way, for the record, Nick Frost looks terrible with long hair. Please never let him do that again.

Friday night was dinner with Ronya and Bob at the Taj Mahal. Still a great place for food. I’m always surprised at how small the serving dishes are, and yet even though they each look like a single serving I have yet to ever end a meal there unsatisfied. I think my perspective has been skewed by Chinese food restaurants. Still another reminder that you don’t need quantity for satisfaction.

Saturday I made good use of my snow tires and rode into work for a couple of hours’ worth of work. The Maker Faire is coming up fast and we want to be prepared this year, not scrambling at the last minute like last year. Of course, the simple fact that we’re not moving the entire shop two weeks before the show should help, I think. Still, we put a few hours towards putting together a couple hundred ARDX kits which are going to be one of the focuses of the trip.

And I will be going, this year. We began ironing out the traveling plans for this faire and pretty much all of us will be going, heading out Thursday and returning Tuesday. We’re closing the shop for Friday and limiting the shop to a half day on Tuesday. I suspect I’m going to need the entire weekend afterward to catch up on my sleep.

Speaking of sleep I’ve been gradually improving mine. I’m more or less used to wearing the mask now and keep it on for the whole night. I only take it off in the morning when I hit that point of waking up and waiting for the alarm. That being said, I’m still not sleeping through the night. I still wake up a lot and struggle with finding the most comfortable position to sleep in. But when I do sleep I dream lengthy, deep dreams. Now if I can just figure out how to actually sleep the whole night I might actually start to benefit from the deeper sleep. As it is I’m still exhausted when I get up in the morning and I still nod off during the day.

Still working on it.

Sunday night I visited Mav and Tony’s place for dinner and Rock Band with them and Ronya. Tony graciously sifted through his vast library of photos for me to find any and all party and friend photos I didn’t already have. I started going through some tonight, but there are over 2,000 to sort through. This is going to take quite a while. Still, I already have a lot of new photos of me that I didn’t have before. Seeing them I can’t help but notice, again, how freaking huge I am. The scary part? Penn of Penn and Teller is so freaking huge himself that he makes me look normal.

I’ve been playing Dragon Age II for the past couple of weeks but I’ve come to realize that at some point I switched over from playing the game to Working Through It. The telling point? This weekend I’ve had almost no time whatsoever to play the game and tonight, when I got home from work, I didn’t even remember I still have the game in the Xbox until the evening was almost over. I have almost no compulsion to return to it.

So far I’ve worked my way through two major plot events and both events culminated in… time passing. Virtually nothing else has changed. Sure, after the first plot point the character becomes rich, but all that does is provide him with a larger home and a single new set of clothes that only appear when he’s at home. They tried to reward me with quaint little details around the new house, little touches each of the other characters added to the place, but I clicked through them all in less than five minutes. After that the place just became another spot to return to and resupply. Even the death of the main character’s mother barely leaves a ripple in the storyline.

The most entertaining part of the game, so far, has been the one side plot to help the captain of the guard get a date. At least that gave me some chuckles.

I will finish it eventually, but later… when the rest of my life becomes boring enough that I’ll feel like returning to it.

Right now I have a few hundred more photos to flip through before bed.

Good evening, we're so happy to have you... here.

Misfits of superpower

Misfits walking to work

Misfits Walking

Being slightly bored and completely out of cash I’ve taken to downloading more TV shows to watch. I haven’t gone back to Breaking Bad yet. I don’t know why but somehow it’s dark humor is a little too much dark and not enough humor for me. Maybe it’s because I can’t really identify with the characters.

So I dug through the lists of popular shows to find something else.

House is high on the list and I remember enjoying it when it started years ago, but it’s up to it’s umpteenth season now and I just don’t feel like diving into that deep of a pool.

Most of the other shows I already have.

I’ve heard plenty of positive things about Sons of Anarchy and I’ve been slightly tempted, but … not just yet.

Then I lit on a show I hadn’t heard of before: Misfits.

Yeah, I know, once again I’m late to the party. But I’m still here, ain’t I?

It’s another British production and yet another one done very well. I’m beginning to think I’m a British person at heart.

The premise of Misfits is as unlikely as it gets. But then that’s nothing new about shows I love.

Five young adults, just on the tipping point of 20 years, find themselves convicted of minor crimes and committed to six weeks of community service. On their first day a very bizarre storm blows up dropping grocery cart sized boulders of hail. As they all run for cover they, and their social worker, get blown off their collective feet by a bolt of lightning.

The storm, of course, transforms them all and each of them develops a single super power.

It’s Heroes with real world grit. And humor. They’re convicted criminals and they act like it. Not that they set out to commit crimes with their powers. Instead, they’re doing their best to look out for themselves and keep things as low key as possible. And they really don’t want their powers.

The fact that they have to kill their social worker as he turns into a crazed psycho straight out of “28 Days Later” doesn’t help them. In fact they end up killing each of the social workers assigned to them, although never by intent.

I know, I’m giving away too much and I should stop, but you see it coming anyway. At least I did. This is not to say that the writing is predictable. It most certainly is not. There is no true love story, no heroic adventure with epic battles, there isn’t a horror monster and there isn’t a buddy cop adventure. There’s five post teen slacker screw ups who have no skills, hopes, or plans for the future. They drag their asses through the day and tick the minutes off until their time is done and they can go home.

The writing is both grim and witty, subtle and crude.

Nathan is the asshole, and he plays it well. There’s a lot of moments where you just wish he’d shut the fuck up. He’s the coarse friend we all have who’s embarrassing to be seen in public with but who is nonetheless very loyal. You get to learn why he’s such a prick but you also feel like smacking him on the back of his head, hard, and telling him to get the fuck over it. He never does.

You also don’t find out what his power is until the last episode of the season. I won’t say more than that as the reveal of his power is a major plot point.

Curtis was a rising star in sports, an Olympic class sprinter, who screws it all up by getting arrested and convicted for drug possession. In moments of emotional crisis he can rewind time along his own personal time line and, on occasion, change the past. It’s a curse, though, and one the writers played very well with. If he gets stuck with an emotional situation he runs the risk of never getting out of it. In one episode he tries to break up with his old girlfriend and the moment she starts to cry he starts to feel guilty. The moment he feels guilty his power automatically kicks in and he rewinds to some time before breaking up with her. His own personal groundhog day of hell ecapsulated in five minutes of awkward, emotional arguments.

If there’s one thing Brits know how to film it’s awkward moments. It’s like they’re master class at being social misfits. Or genius at knowing what it’s like to be human while simultaneously brave enough to show it raw and unfiltered. They seem to have the courage to take that awkward moment and stretch it to real life proportion. There are times it’s physically uncomfortable to watch, but you’re dying to see how it plays out.

Kelly is the very crude girl from the very wrong side of the tracks. The different accents available in England is staggering, and some of them are virtually incomprehensible. Kelly’s accent makes her sound like she’s talking with a mouth  partially paralyzed by a stroke. It’s like trying to understand a deep native Newfoundlander or a Pikey from Snatch. Sometimes I only get to understand what she’s saying from context.

She’s also the toughest of the five and has no reservations against just hauling off and punching people.

Kelly gets cursed with the power of telepathy and can hear what other people are thinking. Add a violent temper on top of that and you’ll find her punching people out for seemingly no reason. Imagine if, instead of Counselor Troi, you had Warf with the ability to hear what people were thinking.

Alisha is the tarted up young slut who’s always going to the clubs and using boys up like cheap tissues. She’s too good for anyone and lets everyone know it. She has her cell phone glued to her hand, either talking or texting, and doesn’t give a shit about anyone.

She winds up with a power that makes anyone touching her insanely drawn to her, sexually. Which almost sounds like she’s just a more intense version of her original self, but it also means she’s a guaranteed victim of rape if anyone touches her. Period.

It’s quite fascinating when, in the second season, she meets someone who isn’t affected by her powers.

Simon is the most interesting of them all. A weird loner kid, socially awkward in every way, he develops the power to become invisible. It takes them all a while to notice since they normally ignore him anyway. It isn’t until he finds he can’t see himself in a mirror that he realizes it isn’t just social.

He’s also the intelligent one of the group and the one who comes up with plans and solutions. He’s also the one who grows the most as a character.

I’ve watched one and a half seasons of the show so far, and there are only two seasons available. I’m trying to slow it down so I don’t blow through all of them in one weekend but it’s damned hard to stop. I’m having to force myself to stop and perform some chore in order to earn the next episode. If I didn’t, nothing would get done.

Like this journal entry for example.

Sleep machine progress remains slow. I’ve determined that the apertures of the new, softer mask are definitely smaller than the apertures of the old, hard mask. This makes it very hard to breathe out. I’ve yet to manage more than twenty minutes with it. On the plus side switching back to the old mask makes it feel much better and I’ve managed two whole nights with it on. Well, up to six am anyway. This morning I took it off at six and slept in for another three hours. But it’s the weekend, I’m allowed.

My next appointment with the sleep merchant isn’t until April 12th so I have a few weeks to try and get used to it. Slow progress is still progress and I’m not giving up.

Still tired as fuck when I get up in the morning, though.

Achievement and perspective and Oscars

I’ve been going back over old posts on my blog, trying to clear out the huge “Uncategorized” category. Unfortunately even though I’ve been working on it all weekend I only just barely got the total down under 700 posts. This is going to be a huge undertaking.

To make it worse I used some freeware importer to grab my posts from livejournal years ago and hadn’t noticed until it was too late that the importer dropped any lj specific links. So every time I used some-one’s lj name as a link in a post that spot is now blank. So every once in a while I come across a post about stuff I’ve done with other people and I can’t for the life of me figure out who those other people were. The only hint I have is that they’ve had an account on livejournal at some point.

As I read back through each post it staggers me how little actually remains in memory. I mean, I remember a lot of what was written about, but only after I’ve read about it. And even then there are some events that are a blur.

It would be nice if I could claim I simply practice the Taoist philosophy of “living in the now” but honestly it’s just that my memory is That Bad. It’s lucky I’ve written any of it down as that will be the only way I will remember any of it.

Which also highlights how much of a tragedy it is that I have written so little in the past few years. Some of it, I’ll be honest, I just don’t want to write about and would simply rather not remember. But, in retrospect, those are the things that are most important to remember. It is vitally important that we remember the bad times if only to appreciate how good the good time really are.

As an example, to this day I will always have that one job cleaning out repossessed homes to put every other job into perspective. No matter how tough a current day at work might get, no matter how crushing the load or how brutal the task, I can smile and think to myself “Well, at least I’m not cleaning out roach infested, shit encrusted slum dwellings anymore.” It’s the kind of perspective that can make you grin and whistle while you sweat and toil. It also gets people looking at you kind of strange.

This weekend was quiet. Friday night was spent in video games, Saturday was brunch by myself and a brief walk through seventeenth ave. And napping. Lots of napping. I do so love my weekend naps. Saturday night was Fringe and a really bad c-grade movie starring Dolph Lundgren in his imminent decline alongside Brandon Lee in what should have been his gradual rise. Showdown in Little Tokyo is a profoundly forgettable film that highlights just how tired so very many cliches are, and just how poorly Dolph does at any kind of buddy film. I don’t know if that man knows how to have friends given how poorly he acts at having friends. And Brandon was trying so very, very hard, but the two of them weren’t just phoning it in, they were leaving their scenes as notes passed between desks during detention. They weren’t merely uninspired, they seemed almost resentful.

Sunday I finally muscled my way through the mortgage pre-approval application. It’s depressingly sparse and unimpressive, and I still have a few details to fill in, but I should be able to submit it shortly and see just how bad my options are.

I’m glad I kept the cardboard box from my TV. I might just end up living in it.

Tonight was good fun, though, and a worthy reward for having done my paperwork. I joined a small group of friends at James’ place to watch the Oscars. Anne Hathaway did her best to be funny, and showed up in some very appealing dresses, but James Franco seemed to be just about as flat as Dolph Lundgren. Although he did also wear a fetching little dress that showed he does, indeed, possess his own set of broad shoulders.

Now I need to see True Grit, The King’s Speech, Black Swan, and I’m going to have to rent The Social Network when it comes out. Actually I think I can wait to rent all of them, except maybe Black Swan. I suspect some of the stage scenes might benefit from a larger screen. But I definitely want to see The King’s Speech, if only to see Geoffrey Rush not be a pirate.

Fallout New Vegas is GREAT… when it works

I’ve been playing Fallout New Vegas for the past couple of weeks. It’s one of the reasons I haven’t been out of the house, even factoring my tendency to hibernate. It is a very addictive game, but as so many addictions go this one at least comes with some self imposed limits. I just don’t think they intended them.

Like Fallout 3, Fallout New Vegas is huge on story. One of the reviews I read about the game suggests there are anywhere from sixty to eighty hours of playable storyline in the game and I believe them. It’s one of the sandbox type games where you can go just about anywhere at any time and pick up quests all over the map. It’s also one of those games where your actions and choices determine what will or will not be available to you down the road. So that estimate of sixty to eighty hours of playability makes perfect sense. If you play the noble hero you’ll be able to talk to the more civilized people while the more villainous people will attack you on sight. Play a coldhearted killer and you’ll be run out of town but you’ll find camps of like minded killers more than willing to engage your particular talents.

Go down the middle of the road and you’ll find most people just won’t trust you far enough to lead you anywhere.

Supposedly Vegas got missed in the initial nuclear war, but you find out later that one rather prominent Howard Hughes / Walt Disney / Tony Stark style industrialist has managed to live a few hundred years in seclusion while building Vegas back to a simulacrum of it’s former glory by enlisting the aide of warring post apocalyptic tribes as well as his army of helpful robots. So apparently Vegas was blown to rubble after all.

You’ve got hundreds of characters to meet, hundreds of quests to explore, and a vast wasteland populated with a freakish array of survivors. You’ve got the NCR, a vast military empire hell bent on holding onto the hoover dam for it’s power, both electrical and symbolic. You’ve got a self styled Caesar (who mangles the pronunciation of his own name so badly I have to resist the urge to shoot him every single time he speaks) with an empire of soldiers trained to frightening capability. You also have drug addled fiends addicted to every chemical that can be found who attack in waves of hopped up frenzy.

You also have super mutants, which you had in the previous game. Fine, super mutants I can handle. They take a lot to bring down, but if you’re careful and only deal with one or two at a time you can manage it. Except these super mutants have stumbled on a shipment of Stealthboys, a trademarked device available in the game that makes you pretty much invisible. So you don’t see the super mutant until the crude club it fashioned out of some broken off piece of concrete and I-beam structural support it ripped out of some building is pegging you off your feet and hurling you three hundred yards down the fairway. Or into the next wall, whichever comes first.

You can make your own weapons, which is something you had in Fallout 3, but you can also repack your own ammo and mix together your own home brews. This is incredibly awesome.

You can pick up companions along the way, people who will follow you around and provide assistance where needed. One of the cooler ones is voiced by Felicia Day, which is also incredibly awesome.

Now for the self moderating addiction part of it.

The game is fantastic, and I want to play it all, and I want to play it over and over again. There’s just one problem: it won’t let me.

The game is full of bugs, some glaring ones that make me raise and eyebrow and wonder if they did any kind of play testing before release.

There are environmental glitches galore. I’ve walked past some mutated creature trapped in the ground dozens of times, their three dimensional image stretched and warped out of all recognition. They twitch and sputter like they’re being electrocuted or having horrific seizures. Stuck partly in and out of the “world” also means you can’t interact with them. Can’t even kill them to put them out of their misery. You just have to walk on and hope the next time that map is loaded they’ll have that poor beast either freed or deleted.

My companions have been the most buggy parts of the game. I’ve had one companion utterly fail to go “down” a set of stairs so that she wound up following through one level stuck a foot or so over my head, only her feet visible emerging from the ceiling. They’ve been stuck in doors and walls so many times you start to view them as unstable ghosts.

The worst, though, is when you lose them.

You can instruct your companion to wait for you in some spot, most often when you want to sneak around somewhere and don’t want to risk having them suddenly start talking to you when you’re trying to hide. Telling them to wait, though, is a risk in itself. There have been at least three times when I’ve gone back to meet up with my companion only to find them gone without a trace. One time my companion disappeared but her incidental sound track didn’t. I’d be walking along and some disembodied voice would make some random comment from out of nowhere.

The only way I’ve been able to fix this is to load up an old saved copy of the game that still contains the companion and try carrying on from there. Frustrating, to say the least. But even this isn’t a guarantee. I finally had to give up on one companion when she became, for lack of any better term, “inert”. She was still in existence, and she would talk to me, but she wouldn’t follow me anywhere. It was like she was stuck in “wait here” mode and I couldn’t shake her loose. Even loading an old save didn’t break her out of the spell.

If my character was attacked within earshot of her she’d come running to help out, but once the fight was over she’s go inert again, unwilling to move on with me.

I finally had to release her, tell her to go her own way. She told me she’d be waiting by where we’d first met if I decided I wanted her help again. And she was there, waiting, when I went to check, but she was still “inert” and no matter how many times she agreed to follow me she would never move from where she stood.

Other glitches keep my gaming sessions short. Every time you go into a new map the game has to give you a little “busy” icon and some static images while it loads the elements for the next map. Some maps are more complex than others and take longer to load. But the longer I play the longer each map takes to load until even the simplest maps, those of some single room shack or some such, take several minutes to load. If you shut the game down and reboot your xbox it will return to normal for a time, but after a while the map loads just get longer and longer until you just don’t want to play anymore.

So, when the game works it’s great. When it doesn’t, it’s frustrating enough to want to pull your hair out. So far, though, it’s good enough that I keep going back to it, though never for very long. Hopefully some day they’ll have a whopping huge patch to download and fix all these problems.

Life needs an upgrade

Had a wonderful evening of dinner and games with Wildor and Sandi last night. I’d never played “The Game of Life” before. I decided it was too narrow in scope and started suggesting other areas of life it could cover, things like: it needs a third alternative to “Educated” and “Uneducated” paths… it needs a Criminal path, one with lots of associated challenges and perils. It also needs an alternative to “Get Married” and an alternative to “Buy a House”. Assuming those two events must happen in your life seems rather closed minded.

Over thirty years of telling you there's only one way to live your life. Smile!

Over thirty years of telling you there's only one way to live your life. Smile!

Before I knew it Wildor and Sandi were handing me the game and encouraging me to rebuild it. Now it’s sitting on our kitchen table and I’m itching to take it apart.

I figure the game should allow you to go through college at any point in the game, even near the end. The “college path” should be separate from the regular path and you should be able to jump to it if and when you have enough time and/or money.

The criminal path should also be separate and available at any stage of the game. It should be incredibly easy to get into and twice as hard to get out of. It should also have the potential to have a lasting negative effect for the rest of the game even if you leave the criminal level. It should also have the potential to end your game early.

I also have issue with the “life experience” events resulting in tokens that simply provide money. The goal of the entire game is to retire with as much money as possible. How incredibly Republican. I think life experiences should simply equate to Life Experience and the player who finishes the game with the most Life Experience, regardless of how much money they’ve accumulated, would be the winner. I know in the current game it essentially works out the same way since the cash money you accumulate is generally an order of magnitude less than the “life experience” money, I just object to the “life experience” being expressed as a dollar value. I don’t think Ghandi or Michael Palin would express their life experience as a dollar value.

Sandi experienced my point directly when she was supremely disappointed to find the dice rolls taking her from payday to safe and boring payday without hitting any of the squares in between. She was amassing quite a nest egg in terms of cash but wasn’t “getting to play the game” in between. Money is all well and good as a tool (and I know we all wish we had more of it) but it is hardly a goal in and of itself. That being said, I’m first to point out that while money can’t buy happiness it can always make your tedium just a little more comfortable and offers more opportunities for happiness than poverty does.

I think I’m starting to talk circles here.

The problem with adding to a game like this is it’s far to easy to keep going without knowing where to stop. It could quickly grow into… a role playing game.

I do find it interesting, and slightly amusing, that the only adjustment needed to the game to allow for gay marriage is the assumption that “having kids” includes the option to adopt. And, hey, if Ronya’s lesbian couple can become grandparents without actually having any kids (“One of the kids from a former marriage, back when I thought I was straight, had a kid of her own…”) then I think the mechanism is more than adequate for handling adoption as a way of expanding the family.

Anyway, enough rambling, time to get the car washed…

GMobileSync makes me popular

Sometimes when an applications says “Beta” in it’s title it means “Warning, will blow up, do not touch”.

I’ve been trying to find a way to update the calendar on my smart phone directly from my Google calendar without having to first update my outlook calendar before plugging my phone into my laptop. I’ve got a direct data connection, I should be able to communicate both ways without some intermediate hardware or clunky manual manipulation. This is the information age, isn’t it?

I like Google Calendar because all of the principle people in my life use it to schedule their major events and we all get to see when each of us is or isn’t available. It’s central and convenient. I want to extend that convenience to my phone. If I want to plan an evening out … okay, had to suppress a chortle there… I haven’t planned anything myself in months… but if someone wants to invite me to something I want to be able to a) find out if I am indeed available that evening and b) book that time directly through my phone if I am. Then I want that information to show up on my Google Calendar right away so other principle people in my life will have access to that info right away without having to wait until I get around to updating my laptop first.

So, to that end, I did a bit of searching and found what I thought was the perfect solution: GMobileSync. It’s designed for Windows Mobile and will synchronize your Google and phone calendars both. If you have something on your Google calendar that you don’t have on your phone, it will update your phone. If you have something on your phone that you don’t have on your Google calendar, it will update your Google calendar.

Perfect.

Except… well, it’s in Beta right now. There are some… quirks.

The first time I ran the application it updated my phone with events from my Google calendar. But it didn’t just grab *my* events, it grabbed events from every single calendar my Google account is subscribed to. So it grabbed events from friends’ calendars as well as public group calendars. Suddenly my phone was telling me I had to volunteer at some school this morning after which I’d be taking a firefighting course. It also reminded me that I was hosting a monthly meeting in Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver.

Okay, so… madness. Not helpful.

The application itself has no option for choosing which specific calendars you want information from so I tried changing a few settings in my Google calendar to see if I could somehow prevent the application from copying *everything* from *everybody*. Inconvenient, but I was willing to put up with a little less flexibility if I could make the two way updates work the way I wanted them to.

Well, the second attempt was more convoluted than a Marvel Comics Super Summer Special retcon plot line.

Since the appointments already on my phone had no indication of ownership beyond just being on my phone the application assumed they were ALL mine and very helpfully uploaded them all back to my Google Calendar under my own account. Then it went through and checked to see if there were any new events on the rest of my calendars. Finding a whole bunch recently added, it very promptly downloaded them back to my phone again.

Okay, so… Monster Madness. And considerably less helpful. Now my phone was bulging with hundreds and hundreds of appointments, none of them actually mine.

Some of the principle people in my life were starting to poke at me, wondering what the hell I was doing in Vernon BC this Saturday and why I hadn’t told them. And why was I getting a massage at 3 in the afternoon?

So, jaw set firmly in grinding teeth mode I set about systematically deleting every single appointment from my calendars, both Google and phone.

Automation is so very helpful, sometimes, and other times it just likes to magnify your mistakes. In this case the magnifying was set to full on burning ant mode and was bigger than the Hubble telescope.

Every time I deleted an appointment from my phone calendar it would very helpfully send out a notification to all participants that said appointment was canceled This happened whether the appointment was actually mine or not.

So today I’ve been fielding e-mails from a handful of group calendar moderators asking why their members have been receiving helpful notifications from MY Google account stating that a variety of upcoming events were being canceled

Joy… now we’re into Lovecraftian Madness with just a smidgen of public humiliation.

So, I entreat you, if you ever happen across an application called GMobileSync, DO NOT install it. At all. Ever.

And if anyone has a suggestion on how I might actually do this correctly on an HTC Touch I’d greatly appreciate the suggestion.

Now I return to writing my apology e-mails…

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The Spirit Review

I think Neil Gaiman expressed it best. I read him reiterating a point the other day, explaining his opinion with a little more precision. He felt that movies based on comic books tended to be the most successful when they most accurately emulated the look, feel, and spirit of that same comic book. Not, he corrected, when they simply look and feel like a comic book, but when they look and feel like the very comic book on which they were based.

In this way, he noted, movies like Spiderman and Sin City were very successful, whereas movies like The Spirit are not.

I think that theory will be put to the test with the upcoming Watchmen movie, but that’s yet to be seen.

The Spirit as conceived by Frank Miller

The Spirit as conceived by Frank Miller

The theory works very well for The Spirit, which unfortunately means The Spirit had very little chance of being a successful film. It was The Spirit as drawn and written by Frank Miller, not The Spirit as drawn and written by Will Eisner.

At best the movie comes across as a very schizophrenic patient with split personality disorder, except the two divergent personalities keep trying to express themselves at the same time.

There were a lot of points throughout the movie where I literally felt embarrassed by the dialog, nervously looking at the floor or other theater seats, not quite sure where I should be looking but certain that I didn’t want to be watching something quite so uncomfortable.

The Spirit as he was meant to be, originally conceived by Will Eisner

The Spirit as he was meant to be, originally conceived by Will Eisner

The feeling was very much like watching high school theater, with the kids taking the roles and production so very seriously yet completely oblivious of how ham handed and awkward their performance is. You feel sorry for them, when you have the compassion, or you feel like making fun of them when you don’t.

And there were plenty of times when myself and the other audience members where laughing out loud at the film, and not because the scene was meant to be funny.

On the way out of the theater I came to the realization that the whole film felt like it was done by a first year art student with the backing of a budget and a studio. All the people involved in making the film were seasoned professionals, from the lighting director on down to the actors. The whole film had the polished feel of the elements having been produced by people who not only knew what they were doing, but were accomplished artists in their field, but the overall construction being done by someone who had no idea of what they were building.

Like a Ferrari being put together by a mechanic fresh out of community college. He might know how the parts are supposed to go together, in theory, but the actual precision and experience just wasn’t there. So while you end up with something that might actually run, it’s not likely to win any races.

The only truly convincing moment of the film was when Scarlet Johansson, in her role as Silken Floss, proclaimed “Oh I don’t really care about all of this, I’m only doing this for fun.” Which, if you took it as a statement from Scarlet herself instead of her character, made a lot more sense.

The film is fun, honestly, in that so-bad-it’s-kind-of-funny way, and there are very pretty moments, but for the most part it feels like a high school play with a budget and studio.

Forcing myself out

I had to force myself out of the house today. I’m terrible at organizing outings of my own. Despite the fact that I do organize two major parties each year I’m actually primarily an introvert. I just happen to be an introvert who normally has enough people in his immediate circle that he doesn’t have to come up with ideas of what to do. Left on my own, however, I tend to default to decidedly sedentary activities. This means I end up just staying home and watching movies, maybe playing some video games. If I’m feeling social I might even play an online game.

Last night I really let myself go. I stayed up watching movies and playing Wow until four in the morning. Not exactly healthy on the long term.

Today I decided I needed to push myself outside. A simple walk to the nearby shopping mall and a super tall coffee was just what I needed. I managed to get out before the sun was completely gone and walked back in the dark, but it was still a good walk. Plus I got to finish reading my current book, Fluke by Christopher Moore, and got some editing done as well. An added bonus came when the walk back proved even warmer than the walk there. I love Calgary chinooks.

Fluke was a good book in that it gave me characters I cared about and put them through situations that had me concerned for them. The storyline kept me interested and turning pages. There was a brief moment in the middle where the reveal of the major plot twist had me going “huh?” and almost made me put the book down. The whole tone of the book changed and I started to care less and less about what was going on. If he hadn’t moved on to an even bigger mystery of considerable interest Christopher could have lost me for good. It was a risky move, but it worked out in the end. I’d say more, but I’m afraid I’d give too much away.

And now that I’m back I’m going to… well, watch some movies and probably play a little Wow. Hey, at least I got some work done first. 🙂

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Loving a dark room

So I have this application on my laptop called JDarkRoom. What does it do? Well… quite simply… it’s a text editor.

Why would I bother with yet another text editor you ask? Because this one is special. Or, more precisely, this one is simple. Incredibly simple.

It does NOT: check spelling, check grammar, offer helpful advice in the manner of an annoying animated paper clip… or even, for that matter, allow you to format text into tables, columns, paragraphs, or different fonts.

What does it do? It allows you to enter text. It allows you to search and replace text. It allows you to save that text as a text document. Period.

Why is this so important? I mean, I could do this with windows notebook too, couldn’t I?

Well, yes I could, but it does one other thing that windows notebook doesn’t: it takes over the entire screen with nothing but the text you’ve written. No window, no menus, no arrow to be moved out of the way, no default white background meant to mimic a page of paper, no annoying animated characters trying to help you write your letter…

Nothing but black background with lightly glowing text.

I love it. It’s exactly what I need for writing: less functionality. If there were any less functionality I’d be using a typerwriter. Or pen and paper.

It lets me focus on the writing without having to strain to look at the screen and without getting distracted by fonts and formatting. It’s just text.

Of course, I can always use a good spell checker, but that’s something I can do once I’ve finished typing.

In updates, as gifted_spirit already posted we’re having to maintain treatment for Carmen. She’s having kidney function issues much like Gargoyle did, but unlike Gar she’s fighting the hard fight. Unfortunately she’s fighting pretty much everything right now, including me trying to give her medication. The thing that gives me hope is just how much strength I have to use to keep her head still. I mean, if she can force me to use some serious strength just to hold her head still she’s not weak or dying.

To throw my geek out there, she reminds me a lot of Yoda versus Count Duku. She mutters and wines, limping her way around, but once she’s in a fight she’s a whirling force to be reckoned with.

Ironically enough the one thing she doesn’t fight is the IV injection of fluids under her skin. I’m more than a little wigged out by having to jab my kitty with a needle every morning and pumping 100 ml of fluid under her skin. But unlike the appetite stimulant pill or the goopy food supplements she just stands there and takes it. The only time she even complains is the one time I forgot to warm the liquid first. She didn’t care much for room temperature fluid being pumped under her skin.

I’m really hoping she takes well to treatment. The biggest problem right now is making sure she eats something. She refuses to eat whatever I offer her but I’ve seen her nibbling at the food tower.

And now that my lunch is nearly over I should post this and pack my stuff up. My pickups start in 15 minutes.

Movies, Motorcycles, Banana Bread, and Job Interviews

Okay, so… Ghost Rider.

*sigh*

I kept my expectations low, and they were met. Barely.

My biggest disappointment was/were the fight scenes. Whoever wrote them had the imagination of a ten year old. I can see them scripted now: Demon grabs Ghost Rider. Ghost Rider blasts demon. Ghost Rider rides away on flaming motorcycle.

*yawn*

I mean, it might have been kinda cool if it looked like Ghost Rider might actually be in some serious trouble at some point, but you never got that impression.

The graphics were cool, and occasionally Nicolas Cage had some quasi-humorous lines, but for the most part the movie was… forgettable. I mean, the best fight “moment” in the whole film was when Ghost Rider roped the helicopter. When a throw-away (hah, pun intended) gag like that is actually more entertaining than the battle against the big bad guy, you know you’ve dropped the ball somewhere. And I feel they could have improved it somewhat if they’d just given the skull some animated features. Just because it’s a flaming skull doesn’t mean it can’t be as motile as Jack Skelington. In fact an animated skull probably would have communicated the idea that he’s actually a demon himself without having to be blatant about it.

Come to think about it, the actor who played Mephistopheles could have used some animation in his face, too. (holy cow, I just found it out was Peter Fonda. Dude, stop the botox! You face looks like it was stolen from a wax museum!)

I can’t blame the movie, though… Ghost Rider has been a difficult character to write ever since he was first conceived. While he looks really cool his “Raison d’Être” has always been rather shallow and short sighted. He was created by Satan to collect souls and has powers to punish the wicked. He has flames, he rides a motorcycle. That’s about as deep as it gets.

And while I will always have a fond place in my heart for the character I’ve pretty much given up any and all hope of him being… well, sophisticated.

Still, being that it was a pretty picture I’m glad I got to see it on the big screen. And I’ll probably buy it when it comes out. My geekdome kind of requires it.

It was also nice to see the previews for 300, Grindhouse, Resident Evil: Extinction, and Spiderman 3. I’ll probably wait until Grindhouse is on DVD to watch it, if at all, but the rest I’m going to see as soon as they’re in the theaters.

On Wednesday Dianne and I made banana bread and watched Kinky Boots. It’s a great film and I recommend it to everyone. I do hope we get to see Chiwetel Ejiofor in other roles, and soon. And it would be kind of nice if someone could explain how to pronounce his name. Right now I just kind of mentally mumble over it whenever I see it. Actually, is it just me or do others agree that he could also make a fantastic voice actor?

Thursday I went to what I thought was going to just be a job fair and wound up being a fairly positive job interview. Although the interviewer kept trying to warn me off, telling me numerous times how it was a high pressure job and wanting to make it absolutely clear that it was a high pressure job and did I realize it was a high pressure job… I don’t blame him. My past jobs haven’t been what most people would consider “high pressure”, and it’s one of the many reasons I never wanted to work in tech support. But the pressure in an IT “support” position comes from trying to figure out the mysteries of an insanely complex system that may or may not be giving you hints as to what’s wrong. (*glares pointedly at increasingly annoying wireless router*) The kind of pressure he was talking about was the pressure of a race. While there will no doubt be variables to it they won’t be anywhere near as archane or mind bending as a tech support job. I’m quite confident I can handle it.

And that’s about as detailed as I want to get into that lest I jinx it. He did say they’d be contacting me for another test (I already wrote one just prior to the interview and scored %96… trust me, given the test that’s not worth boasting about) and so far they haven’t called. It’s quite possible it was just his way of putting me off gently or some such. He did thank me for coming in and said he actually enjoyed the interview, which was nice, but I’ve been told that before. “We really enjoyed having you in this interview”, or variants to that effect, have been said to me in the past only to turn out to be “I had a lovely time, I’ll call you” kind of polite PFO’s.

Time will tell. I’m trying not to get my hopes up about it.

Thursday night Dianne and I drove out to Brooks to see The Messengers with Ronya during her 24 hour shift break, and to deliver a loaf of chocolate chip banana bread while we were at it. While the movie did build up the tension from time to time, where I was in fact reluctant to look at the screen at moments, it turns out that a PG-13 horror movie is much like a can of sugar free, decaf cola: what’s the point? Beyond a slight similarity in flavor there really isn’t any reason to consume either. And the characters were just plain stupid. If a monster, or collection of monsters, has just reached out from a pit to drag someone down, the last thing you should be doing is standing right next to the pit. You move back, out of reach. Now… IF you’re stupid enough to remain within reach, and those same monsters grab you and try to drag you down, it’s your own damned fault. And if your family manages to rescue you from said monsters’ evil cluches… then PERHAPS the THREE of you should MOVE AWAY FROM THE PIT before having your congratulatory hugs. Honestly, the whole family should have just died right then and there.

As an extra bonus… IF you finally discover the house IS in fact haunted, and not the product of your daughter’s fragile psyche, and in your discovery you witness one person dragged to their presumed death just before you yourselves are attacked AGAIN… perhaps the SMART thing to do would be MOVE OUT OF THE FUCKING HOUSE! The stupidity of the movie’s ending was just… insulting, honestly. It felt like being mentally assaulted by a poorly hacked Disney plot. I felt that each member of the audience (or at least each of the five of us holding our hands up in stunned disbelief) should have been allowed to personally destroy one print of the film each to make up for having had to endure what pretty much amounted to a 90 minute knock-knock joke with the comedian butchering the punchline.

At least I got to see the Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer trailer… although that looks to be about as deep as Ghost Rider, and about as pretty.

Today I attended my first motorcycle class, the sit-down written portion of it. I did in fact learn stuff, and they presented us with lots of material to review over the coming weeks. My actual first on-bike class won’t be until the 19th. Still very much looking forward to it.